Patriots rally to win basketball season opener

Tim Laurent, Staff Writer

The Patriots’ men’s basketball team took the court for the first time Nov. 16 to take on Allen University for “Riot at the Rim” in front of a crowd of 1,147 fans.

Students were treated to free food, giveaways and the opportunity to meet both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Admission was free to all who donated two canned goods for Harvest Hope Food Bank.

FMU entered the season ranked 8th in the Peach Belt Conference, and felt as if they had something to prove coming into this new season. Things did not start out so well for the Patriots though, as they got behind early, and never led in the first half. The closest the Patriot men came to leading in the first half was a 14-14 tie. The slow start  had FMU down by six at halftime, 25-19.

Anyone who left the arena during intermission may have regretted that decision, as the crowd was given a performance by the Skyriders trampoline team. Other fan events were held throughout the course of the game, such as a student three-legged race, a student shoot-around and a performance of “YMCA” by the UPB.

The second half found the Patriots with a much higher-powered offense. It didn’t take the Patriots long into the half to gain the lead. Freshman guard Evrik Gary put the team ahead 34-44 with a 3-point shot about six minutes in. It was a lead that would never be relinquished, as the Patriots steadily increased their lead, and never trailed again in the game.

FMU went on to outscore the Yellowjackets 56-41 in the second half. Junior forward Liki Turner lead all scorers with 18 points. Evrik Gary began what appears to be a very promising career at FMU by scoring 17 points and hitting three 3-pointers. Gary also played all 40 minutes of the contest. Senior swingman Simel Boyd lead all players with 12 rebounds, while scoring 12 points of his own.

Included in those 12 points of Boyd’s was a slam dunk in the waning seconds of the game to get the crowd roaring and give the Patriots a 12 points lead. Junior center Andrew Smith matched Boyd’s point total with 12 of his own.

Allen continued to fight hard as well, as they would bring the game to within four points of the Patriots, and would never trail by more than 11.

The Patriots’ strong play would prove to be too much for Allen. FMU would out-rebound them by eight, 43-35. FMU also shot better than Allen at the free-throw line. The Patriots made 21 of 27 attempts (77%) while the Yellowjackets made 16 of 24 (66%).

The Patriots will begin Peach Belt Conference play on Dec. 1 when they travel to play USC Aiken. The game will be a doubleheader with the Patriot women who take on USC Aiken immediately before.